If you would have told me a week ago that the Manchester Monarchs would dismiss the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins in five games, I wouldn’t have believed you. I don’t think if you told anyone that they would have believed you.
Remember, no matter what you do, there is always someone better. The Penguins were a good team this season. With the additions from Pittsburgh about ten days ago, they were the odds on lock to walk through the Eastern Conference and make it to the Calder Cup Finals.
But there is always someone better. This time it was the Manchester Monarchs who are as good as they come advertised. When I broke the series down last Tuesday, I said that the Penguins defense was a deeper team. Just take a look at these charts (through Game 4) and you’ll see familiar names like Taylor Chorney, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin at the bottom. These names were at the top during the regular season, but they looked pedestrian during this series.
I said that the Penguins had the advantage in goal because of what Matt Murray accomplished. I forgot to tell Manchester because they tore Murray to shreds. I am admittedly bad at math but his numbers were bad in the series and he was pulled after the Monarchs scored their second goal in the first period.
I conceded that the forward corps of Manchester was better than the Penguins. They were. With Wilkes-Barre’s defense neutralized and Murray brought down to earth the Monarchs struck early, often and quickly. The Penguins could never recover. It cost them their season in five games.
So here we stand. At the end of the line again and a whole offseason and regular season to hope to get to do it all again in mid April 2016. It sucks. I’ll be the first to tell you. It’s fun to write about this team as a hobby, which is all that this is, but it makes it easy when you are a winner and are successful year after year after year after year.
This is a transition time for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. There are reports that the New Jersey Devils have interest in head coach John Hynes. Our defensive corps of Derrick Pouliot, Taylor Chorney, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin are probably all graduated to Pittsburgh or the NHL. Up front is a big question mark. Will Tom Kostopoulos make another run or hang them up for good? What will become of Conor Sheary, will Pittsburgh or another NHL team sign him to a big league pact? Answers to come this summer.
As for the game, Matt Murray opposed J-F Berube. Adrian Kempe scored at 2:01 of the first period after a turnover / giveaway from Derrick Pouliot for a 1-0 Manchester lead. The Monarchs doubled the lead on a Nick Shore dart entering the zone with the Penguins in a four man box and no one picking up the man with the puck streaking in in Shore for a 2-0 lead at 14:57. Matt Murray’s night was done and Jeff Zatkoff didn’t allow a goal and was perfect with 22 saves.
The Penguins made it a game late in the second with a goal from Conor Sheary at 18:43 on a set faceoff play. The faceoff was won back to Sheary who stepped into it and wired one past Berube to put Wilkes-Barre on the board.
In the third, Manchester proved why they were the second best team in the AHL on defense, blocking shots and only allowing six to get to Berube. Wilkes-Barre never found the equalizer.
Berube was your third star with 28 saves on 29 shots. Conor Sheary was your second star with a goal and Nick Sore was the first star with the game winning goal.
Lots of post mortem stuff to come in the coming days. The Penguins will be playing in a new, eight team division next season. I’ll have stuff on that in a few days.
I’ll update for the final time my postseason charts and probably put a blog out on the final numbers.
I’ll have a Year in Review either this weekend or next week.
My offseason moves chart will be up once the dust settles on contract statuses for next season.
And I will be around in the summertime.
Thanks to everyone who reads, shares and interacts with me here on the blog and on all platforms. I do this all for you guys. I aim to entertain and inform. I hope that you continue to check in with me here on the blog all summer. Lots of things to look forward to.
Let’s Go Pens!!!